Differences in recipient ability of uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains in relation with their pathogenic potential
Conjugation is recognized as a mechanism driving dissemination of antibacterial resistances and virulence factors among bacteria. In the presented work conjugative transfer frequency into clinical uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains (UPEC) isolated from patients with symptomatic urinary tract infections was investigated. From 93 obtained UPEC strains only 29 were suitable for conjugation experiments with the plasmid pOX38, a well-known F-plasmid derivative. The study was focused on comparison of conjugation frequencies in plankton and biofilm, including comparison of conjugation frequencies in high and low biofilm biomass with their virulence potential. It was shown that the conjugation frequency depended on the biofilm biomass and was significantly higher in thin (OD580 < 0.3) than in thick biofilm (OD580 ≥ 0.3). Nonmetric multidimensional scaling analysis revealed that higher conjugation frequencies in plankton and biofilm were directly positively correlated with the sum of virulence-associated genes of the recipient strain and presence of multidrug antibiotic resistances. On the other hand, the sum of insensitivities to different bacteriocins was negatively correlated with an increase in the conjugative transfer level. Our results obtained hence indicate that the evolution of potentially more pathogenic strains via conjugation is depended on the strains' ability to be a "good" recipient in the conjugative transfer, possibly due to the ability to form thinner biofilms.